Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 16
We're in the midst of a longer-than-usual break following All-Star weekend, but don't mistake this lull in live basketball as a good time to rest on your laurels and neglect your fantasy basketball team.
All-Star Weekend always serves as a some kind of magical turning point when struggling players bounce back from a disappointing first half and those previously playing over their heads manage to find a way to fall back down to Earth. Recognizing those cases and properly identifying which players to buy low on and those to sell high is a quality found in the wide majority of fantasy champions. Don't be left behind.
Also, for the more risk-taking owners among us, this period of the year is also a good time to capitalize on the rumor mill. Thursday's trade deadline is fast approaching and it brings with it hundreds of trade rumors. The ability to Identify which ones are the most likely to happen allows savvy owners to sell a player who looks set to enter a less advantageous situation, while the half-baked stories with no traction can allow an owner to buy or sell the players involved by playing on another owner's insecurities.
Making fantasy moves based on what you think will happen will always run the risk of blowing up in your face, but being the owner that grabs a guy's backup right before he leaves town, or who buys a player in a timeshare before he heads to a team that will set him free, can shift the state of your league in a big way. If you're looking for your chance to make a move in the standings, taking these kinds of risks could be how you make that happen.
By the time the ball gets tossed up on Thursday night, the NBA landscape will likely be changed one way or another, big or small. Here are a selection of moves you could make to get ahead of the curve.
Buy Mike Conley
Mike Conley has dealt with both ankle and wrist issues over the past month and, as a result, has not performed at the level we're used to from him. Over his last 12 games, he's amassed four DNPs and only been the 168th-ranked player in nine-category leagues with averages of 12.5 points, 1.2 three-pointers, 1.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steal, 2.0 turnovers, and 41.2% shooting from the field (all down from his overall season averages). He may have been one of the bigger snubs from the All-Star Game this year, but the time he had off instead will likely end up being just what the doctor ordered. Conley is perennial early-round value in fantasy leagues and is a near lock to bounce back in the second half. Get him while the buy-low window is still ajar.
Buy DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan is another player that has not reached his full fantasy potential yet this year, due to injury. DeMar missed 21 games to a groin issue and comes in as only the 128th-ranked player in nine-category leagues for the 32 games he has played - a far cry from his top-50 average draft position. His role with the Raptors is as solid as ever and the extra rest during All-Star break should be just what he needed to recapture his old form. He was rolling pre-break to the tune of 21.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.7 steals, and top-15 value in his last three games and that kind of upside is worth buying while his overall stock is still priced relatively low.
Add Jason Smith
Jason Smith has been a surprise mid-round value for the Knicks over the past month, but still remains about only 15% owned in Yahoo leagues. Over his last eight games, he's posted averages of 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and a mere 0.9 turnovers in a healthy 30.9 minutes per game, while shooting 52.7% from the field and 83.3% from the line. With Amar'e Stoudemire bought out (you can drop him, if you haven't already) and Carmelo Anthony on the verge of being shut down for the season, Smith should be in for even more minutes and touches and could be a sneaky early- to mid-round value for the rest of the year with the opportunity. Don't sleep on him.
Buy Goran Dragic / Isaiah Thomas
Both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas have taken steps back this season in terms of fantasy value as a result of the logjam Phoenix has created for itself at point guard. It seems the Suns have finally realized that stacking one position with their three most talented players (Dragic, Thomas, and Eric Bledsoe) was probably not the best plan, and are now listening to offers on free-agent-to-be Dragic and exploring ways to move Thomas (who they'd rather let go of out of the two). This presents a good opportunity for a proactive fantasy owner to buy the upside that either player would likely cash in on if one or the other were moved. Buy them at their current value (63rd for Thomas, 64th for Dragic) and you could be in for the top-30 value they both displayed last year if a deal goes down and they each go back to being unequivocal starters with a full complement of minutes. Worst case scenario, neither move and they continue to post useful mid-round value.
Sell Patrick Beverley
One team linked to Dragic is his former squad, the Houston Rockets. If the Rockets find a way to land the Dragon, that could do a lot of damage to Patrick Beverley's fantasy value. Beverley is an underrated fantasy asset, putting up 81st-ranked value with modest averages of 10.7 points, 2.2 triples, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, while shooting a lowly 38.6% from the field and 72.5% from the line. In most cases, that kind of sneaky value would make him a buy target, but without the 30.9 minutes per game, he'd quickly become a cut candidate with that shooting split. I'd float out offers as a precautionary measure, especially considering how Houston's ties to Rajon Rondo a few months ago and now to Dragic suggest they are not committed to Beverley as a starter.
Sell Josh Smith
Josh Smith has a way of stuffing box scores with counting stats and - when his efficiency numbers are under control - he looks like an early-round fantasy stud. The only problem is that his old, inefficient habits usually come back before long and do so with a vengeance. In other words, this is just a friendly reminder that his top-25 value over his last eight contests on the strength of 15.0 points, 2.3 three-pointers, 8.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.5 blocks, and only 1.8 turnovers per contest and 46.0% shooting from the field is fool's gold and little more than a sell-high moment. He's not even starting with Dwight Howard sidelined and history suggests something will go wrong before it will stay this right anyway. His 199th-ranked value in nine-category leagues on the season should be all the reminder you need of that. Jump ship.
Add/Buy Jusuf Nurkic
The Denver Nuggets may be on the verge of a fire sale and trying to guess the fantasy fallout from the number of potential deals could make your head spin. The only thing that seems like a good bet is that the Nuggets will hold onto Jusuf Nurkic and that his development will soon be one of the team's primary focuses. Grantland's Zach Lowe mentions in his recent trade deadline primer that his sources see Nurkic as the only true untouchable on Denver's roster. They've already dealt Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers and have been tied to deals involving JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson, so it's obvious that they're fine with clearing out the bigs on their depth chart to leave space for Nurk. He's a top-60 value in nine-category leagues over his last six games with averages of 9.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.3 blocks in only 22.3 minutes per contest, so that could obviously get even better if more minutes become available. He's only 30% owned in Yahoo leagues and is well worth adding or finding a way to acquire for that kind of upside.
Sell Wilson Chandler
As mentioned above, just about every member of the Denver Nuggets is on the trade block, so fantasy owners have to be aware of the latest rumors when it comes to evaluating the rest-of-season value of their assets. Although just about every Nugget has a chance to be moved, Wilson Chandler is the only one to have one single team attached to his name - the Portland Trail Blazers. Chandler has been having a solid season, posting 86th-ranked value in nine-category leagues for averages of 13.9 points, 1.9 threes, 6.0 rebounds, 42.0% shooting from the field, and 80.7% from the line, but those numbers will almost certainly take a hit if he ends up on the Blazers as Nicolas Batum's backup. If you can, it might be wise to sell him now for a player of close to equal value, just in case.
Buy Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson hasn't done a whole lot over the last month or so to warrant standard-league ownership, ranking 145th in nine-category leagues during his last 16 games for pedestrian averages of 8.4 points, 0.5 threes, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 0.9 steals in 20.2 minutes per contest. If the Thunder want to make the playoffs and contend for the title this year, they should probably hold onto Jackson, but his impending free agency, growing dissatisfaction with coming off the bench, and the Thunder's proximity to the tax threshold all make RJax an obvious candidate to be dealt at the deadline. Buying low on him now could pay dividends if he's picked up by a team that would make him a starter or if he manages to turn it up to close out the season in a bid to get the best possible contract in free agency this summer.
Add Mo Williams
The Charlotte Hornets quietly acquired Mo Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves prior to the All-Star break last week and he should have a clear path to standard league fantasy value as the Hornets' starting point guard until Kemba Walker returns in a month or so. In 19 games as a starter for the Wolves this season, Williams averaged 16.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 0.8 steals per contest, while shooting 41.2% from the field and 88.5% from the line. Those are numbers well worth owning for the next little while, so his 40% ownership in Yahoo leagues is probably a little low at the moment.
Buy Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert hasn't started for the Utah Jazz in nearly a month, but he's still managed to post 82nd-ranked value in nine-category leagues over his last 14 games on the strength of 8.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, and 62.7% shooting from the field. He should maintain solid mid-round value for the rest of the season in that role, but if Enes Kanter gets his wish to be traded out of Utah, Gobert's full unleashing could make him a top fantasy center. In eight games as a starter this year, Gobert averaged 8.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and a ridiculous 3.9 blocks per contest, while shooting 66.7% from the field. Buy him now for his solid mid-round bench production and for the chance to get his early-round starter upside.
Drop/Ignore Tony Snell
Tony Snell went on an absolute tear in his last four games before the All-Star break, filling the gaps in the Bulls lineup left by injuries to guys like Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy. In those four games, Snell was the 10th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on the strength of 18.3 points, 3.8 triples, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 turnovers per game, to go with 68.3% shooting from the field and a perfect 2 for 2 mark from the free throw line. Those numbers combined with the 36.1 minutes per game would be more than enough reason to run out and grab him, but the Bulls having the last week to fully heal will likely result in Snell's minutes and role dropping back down and his overall fantasy value falling back out of standard league consideration. Nothing more to see here.